(This column used to be called Random Ex-Brave.)
The 1985 seventh round sucked. Of the 26 players selected, only 8 made it to the majors and baseball-reference grades them as a -1.8 overall. The worst player of that not-so-elite eight? Tommy Gregg, our Thursday Throwback. Sorry, Tommy.
|Mitchell Layton | Getty|
An athlete with a little pop, Gregg was drafted after attending Wake Forest University. It was the third time he was selected after going in the 1981 9th round and the ’84 32nd round by both Ohio teams. It wasn’t until the Pirates picked him that he signed and began his career in a pretty familiar spot for Braves fans – Macon. At the time, the Braves’s SALLY team was in Sumter and they wouldn’t switch to Macon until 1991. The ’85 Macon Pirates weren’t blessed with a lot of talent and finished 26 games under .500, though 20 year-old John Smiley would eventually turn into a serviceable pitcher in the majors. Gregg hit .313 that year with 16 steals so he was already a bit of a prospect.
Gregg honed his craft with both Nashua and its Eastern League replacement, Harrisburg, between 1986-87. His run with the latter was splendid with Gregg slashing .371/.465/.523 with 84 walks to his 47 strikeouts. Wow. He added 22 doubles, nine triples, and 10 HR along with 35 steals. He only stole 96 bases in his minor league career so that’s pretty stellar. His big run even earned him a cup of coffee in the major leagues. His first hit came on September 30 during the second game of a double header when he hit a pinch-hit double off Jay Baller and scored the tying run (like a baller…), but the Pirates would fall 10-8 to the Cubs.
In 1988, Gregg spent most of the season with Buffalo and while he hit .294, his other numbers weren’t nearly as eye-opening as his Harrisburg stats. He also filled in at different times for the Pirates, going 3-for-15 with his first career homerun off the Padres’ Jimmy Jones. Gregg was back in the minors on September 1 when the Pirates announced that he was the Player to Be Named for the trade that occurred four days before which sent Ken Oberkfell to the Pirates. Gregg would get an extended look in Atlanta once he was added to the roster, starting 7 of the 11 games he appeared in. His 10-for-29 run to finish the year had the Braves excited for his future.
With the aging Dale Murphy and Lonnie Smith the only unquestioned starters for the Braves entering 1989, there was plenty of playing time for Gregg along with Dion James and Geronimo Berroa. The only problem was that none of the three produced. Atlanta would later add Oddibe McDowell to the team, moving Murphy to right field, and taking away even more playing time. Gregg added first base to his versatility to stay in the lineup a bit more regularly after McDowell was added, but during his rookie year, Gregg hit a paltry .243/.288/.337 in 298 AB with a 72 RC+.
Gregg would stick around in 1990, but with David Justice at 1B/RF and Ron Gant shifting to center, at-bats were even more difficult for Gregg to find. He did, however, carve out a semi-regular role as a pinch hitter. getting 51 pinch-hit ABs where he added 18 hits and 4 HR. Gregg would continue with the Braves in 1991, though injuries cut into his playing time. His overall numbers were a new low for him (.187/.275/.308), but he did go 9-for-39 in pinch-hitting appearances. In the postseason, Gregg was used 8 times, but managed just one hit and 4 K’s. His one hit came before a Greg Olson single that gave the Braves a fighting chance to come back on the Pirates in a 1-0 game in Game 5 of the NLCS, but Mark Lemke and Jeff Blauser couldn’t bring him home.
In 1992, Gregg would miss a majority of the season and spent more time in the minors than he did in the majors. He did have a big moment against the Giants on October 1. With the score tied at five, the Giants went to Michael Jackson to get them through the tenth. After a first-pitch ball, Gregg sent the Braves faithful home with his 14th career homerun, including a baker’s dozen with the Braves. It would also be his last homer as a Brave. He would be left off the postseason roster and was waived after the season with the Reds picking him up.
Gregg would play in just ten games with the Reds that season despite destroying the American Association to the tune of .318/.398/.934. At 29 years-old, he just wasn’t that interesting of a player anymore. After spending 1994 in Mexico, he got his final extended look in the majors with the Florida Marlins and tied his career high with 6 major league taters in 72 games, often back in his pinch-hit role. The Marlins brought him back for 1996, but he spent the entire year in AAA, hitting 22 homers and stealing 10 bases.
In 1997, the Braves brought back Gregg and he spent most of the season with Richmond, hitting a sweet .332/.402/.501. With the Braves never one to say “no” to an old friend, rewarding the Triple-A batting champ with a callup. In 13 games, Gregg had a handful of hits in 19 AB, but with the Braves desperately looking for a bat for their bench in preparation for their NLCS match-up with the Marlins, Gregg was kept on the roster. He went hitless in four at-bats, giving him a 1-for-11 career postseason line.
After a year back in Mexico, Gregg called it quits after the 1998 season and soon transitioned into a coaching capacity with the Braves, spending time with both Macon and Myrtle Beach. He would later work with the Cardinals and most recently, the Kansas City Royals organization. This summer, he finished his seventh season with the Omaha Storm Chasers as their hitting coach. He still lives in Georgia during the offseason.